Last month I completed my most difficult 30 day challenge yet; publishing a new blog post about psychedelics every day for 30 days of July.
It was an incredible month packed with synchronicities and very meaningful to me in terms of challenging myself and cultivating a growth and exploratory mindset. I can say that it has been one of the most interesting months of my life and so many things occurred, not all clearly because of the challenge, but in ways that I don’t think were entirely coincidental.
The month also nicely coincided with two other milestones for Maps of the Mind, the most views and visitors the site has ever received in a month, and also during the month, 2020 became the year with the most views and visitors. With 5 months left this is very promising and by years end will set a nice new bar for me to reach in 2021.
I’d originally planned to do a review on the final day of the month but in the end needed the time to prepare for a work trip to the Netherlands. I just arrived back on Wednesday and today wanted to take the time to sit down and review the challenge and allow the lessons and all that passed to sink in a little deeper.
Going into the challenge I was both excited and nervous. At the start of July I’d averaged around one post per month on the blog so this was effectively multiplying my output by a factor of 30 – no small amount. However, I knew that my slow rate was due largely to overthinking and perfectionism and the idea of making a jump that was so ridiculous in this regard was that I knew it would push me to overcome this resistance and through whatever was holding me back.
I learned an incredible amount about my writing process and was able to experiment with different ways of approaching writing articles, from structuring, drafting and also using different writing tools.
It was a challenging process and although letting go of those perfectionist tendencies was one of the main difficulties, there were were other hurdles such as days when I didn’t feel that motivated or inspired, and other days when I was tired and was still faced with the fact that I still had to crank out another piece. There were also some very personal things I wrote about which I’ve never shared in public and was nervous about posting online.
At those difficult moments, there were many things which helped. Here I will share a few of those things and I believe these will be most useful for me to remember going forward into new challenges.
Fully committing beforehand
Fully committing 100% to completing the challenge beforehand helped me to find ways and solutions through tight spots. The biggest example of this came on day 11 with an unexpected obstacle.
I was out on my skateboard early on the Sunday morning (I have found weekend mornings are the best times to skate as the city sleeps and you have the roads to yourself). One third in to the 30 days of publishing, I was feeling great about my creative output and in an excellent mood. The sun was shining, I had music playing in my headphones and, skating on some newly paved smooth ass roads, I felt on top of the world. I busted out a few new tricks that I haven’t in a while and was getting a little bit cocky. What happens when you get too cocky? You get a hard lesson.
Flying down the road on my way home from Alexanderplatz I attempted something I haven’t landed in years, and clipping the curb, fell hard. After lying on my back for around 15 minutes, making strange noises whilst I dealt with the pain, I picked myself off the tarmac and with a blood stained T-shirt, gingerly got myself home.
With my cuts and scrapes cleaned and bandaged up and an icepack applied to my right elbow, I was OK, but I’d totally lost the use of my right arm. No movement whatsoever, I couldn’t use my fingers, I couldn’t use my hand. The whole right arm was immobile and in a lot of pain.
At this point I might’ve thought that maybe I can’t go on with the challenge. After all, losing all use of your dominant arm is quite a setback if you are planning on writing. However by this stage I was so committed to the challenge that I knew I had to find a way.
Coincidentally, I had read article the day before called Setback or step up? about whether a change is a setback or an opportunity depends on your framing. It clicked in my mind that this is actually an opportunity for me rather than a hindrance. Thinking back to my original intentions, one of them was to force myself to think differently about how I create. If this wasn’t an opportunity for me to to think differently then what was?
I began dictating my first draft directly into Google Docs using voice typing and did my editing one-handed with my left hand. This editing process was tedious and time-consuming, but determination and resolve kept me going and I feel like I really strengthened these muscles through this trial. Fully committing to the decision to finish 30 days is something that ultimately pushed me through and kept me determined.
In this regard taking the time before hand to think about why I was doing it and having clear intentions very much helped me.
When stuck in some way, revisiting my original intentions helped a lot. I was able to remember why I was doing this and use it as a compass and impetus for action. There were many occasions when I started to get a little bit jammed or doubting and one of my intentions absolutely cleared up the issue for me and gave me a clear focus and direction to move forward.
Seeing the month as an experiment very much helped to let go of perfectionism. I was able to tell myself that it was an experiment and that I would gain valuable data whatever happens and whatever I put out. This is one of the most useful mindsets I’ve found in terms of growing and something I wish to continue to cultivate.
The first week was difficult and I had to overcome a lot of resistance to hitting the publish button when I was not happy with what I was putting out. Fortunately I had a very busy month outside of the writing challenge and though that might seem like the worst time to do such a challenge, it was actually a blessing. It pushed me to hit publish early in the day so that I could move on and get on with the rest of my day. It meant that I couldn’t afford to continually edit or try to refine the post.
I would set a deadline early in the day, do the piece to the best that I could by that time, publish it, and then move on. When my deadline came, usually around 10 or 11 am, I would remind myself that the point was to practice hitting publish even whilst not being satisfied with the final piece. Some days I really didn’t want to publish, but coming out the other side can say it was definitely worth it. I always have the opportunity to revisit and edit pieces in the future if I like.
More next time…
There is plenty more to this, but alas I am out of writing time and need to move on with the day. I’ll continue in a part two of this post soon… see you next week!